I interrupt the normal post here to open a huge can of worms.

Some topics just seem to be around for years, so I thought I would throw out my comments once again on lumbar flexion.

I first put up the post on it (below) almost 1 year ago and it was also published at Diesel Crew also, but the topic came up once again recently on the Strength Coach Podcast Episode 41 when I was just listening to it tonight.  I had so many thoughts running through my head, I decided to put them down “on paper” and hopefully promote some healthy discussion and learn something new myself in the process.

Highlights of Episode 41

“Is Spinal Flexion Bad?”

Special Conference Call with
Charlie Weingroff, Nick Tumminello and
Coach Boyle

You can see my comments in the posts below in the past on this blog

Lumbar Flexion?

Follow up

Lumbar Mobility In Italy

Everyone needs to remember

Living systems are built up with use, and ATROPHY with disuse.

I agree with Nick’s thoughts from the podcast on this point, that the body will ADAPT.  Now, we need to be careful WHAT we are adapting to.

I think it was Dan John that once was asked

“Are squats bad for my knees?” and his response was, “The way YOU squat is bad for your knees!”

How the exercise is done make a huge difference and not every exercise is good for you.   If you are overweight and your gait (walking motion)  looks like a penguin with sunburned privates, then walking is NOT the best exercise for you!  When you walk you put about 4-6 times your bodyweight (running is up to 10x your bodyweight)  through your joints, and if your joints are not up to par it is NOT helping you.  Dump your expensive super stiff, uber spendy, pronation control running shoes too, but that is another can of worms for another day.    Yikes, anyone still reading?

Are We Ruining Athletes?

As Nick pointed out, exercise can be binned as distress or eustress.  Distress is generally a “bad” stress and eustress is generally a “good” stress.  Lumbar flexion for some may be ok and other it may not be.  It is individual and you MUST assess the exercise.

How Do I Know If Lumbar Flexion is Good for Me or Not?

This is the key question that we must ask and can be applied to ANY movement.

1) If it causes you pain, don’t do it.  Find a local physical therapist or someone to get you out of pain.   Many many times the athletes I see leave moving better and that correlates to a huge reduction in pain.  I personally love Z-Health for this aspect.

2) If you move worse after lumbar flexion, it is CURRENTLY bad for you.    Now this does not mean it will ALWAYS be bad, but if it currently is bad then don’t do it.  You can also check your own range of motion also; if it improves = good; if it does not or gets worse =  not good currently.

Do You Have Your Athlete Perform Exercise With Improper Form?

No!  You must do perfect form (and not just give lip service to it).  I am not a fan of huge weighted flexion exercises for MOST athletes.  I do believe that some athlete may be able to work up to it if their sport requires it GRADUALLY, assuming it does not degrade their movement (via gait or range of motion).  Again, if it makes the athlete move worse, don’t do it.  The body is wicked smart and we need to stop thinking that we are smarter than it!  We also must prepar the body for what it may encounter in the “real” world in a safe manner.    This includes teaching everyone (when they are ready) sports speed movements since I have never seen someone fall over slowly and yell “timber!!!!” as they did it.  I also teach athletes how to fall since this is a HUGE fear for many.  Again, this is done in a controlled and safe manner, all the time testing their movement.    I don’t take Ethel out and push her down to see what happens.

Don’t We Need Stability at the Spine?

I prefer to think of it as coordination instead of stability  (thanks Frankie).  I agree with Mike Boyle that stability makes it seem like there should not be any movement there.

So maybe our end result is more muscle “stiffness” but we need to TRAIN MOBILITY to get there?

That was my whole point of the article when I wrote it.  We NEED to get MOBILITY FIRST before we can have good coordination. (stability)   I go into detail why and how in the article, so I won’t repeat it here again.

How Can You Disagree with These Coaches.  Isn’t That Disrespectful?

Of course not.  I can disagree with someone’s thoughts and ideas and still respect them.   If everyone agreed, how boring would that be and would we ever learn anything?  We can all learn something new.  I don’t expect people to believe everything I say without doing their own research or at least some critical thought.

The Joint by Joint Approach Says the Spine Need Stability, Why Mobility?

From coach Boyle’s article, here is the big take away, although I encourage everyone to read the full article link below (warning, the link may be borderline safe for those at work depending on what pic comes up with it)

A Joint-by-Joint Approach to Training

Joint Primary Training Needs
Ankle mobility (particularly sagittal)
Knee stability
Hip mobility (multi-planar)
Lumbar Spine stability
T-Spine mobility
Gleno-humeral stability

While the Joint by Joint Appraoch by Mike Boyle is a great thing since it gets people to look at the huge effects joints have on performance and strength, I still belive that ALL joints need mobility first.  Yes, this include the ones labeled as “stability” above.  The knee is more than just a hinge joint, and while it does not have a ton of mobility in a circular motion, it has some and should be moved as such (again, making sure it is not painful and it is good for your body).   Watch an NFL running back, elite soccer players, etc and you will see some rotation of knees!   Each and every joint should be moved in all the directions that are possible depending on how the joint is designed. This is the basic premise behind the Z-Health R Phase.  If your joints are not up to par, your nervous system will brake your performance to protect that joints.

Even Jaw Mobility?


The human body is absolutely amazing in its capacity to adapt and remodel to the stress placed on it.  The same stress may be ok for you, but bad for your neighbor, so you (or your coach, yes everyone needs a coach) must test your movement after to determine what is optimal for YOU!   Optimal stress done in a repeated intelligent fashion = superior results.

Feel free to drop any and all comments below as I want to hear YOUR thoughts!

Rock on

Mike T Nelson

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